THE BOOK for Heathrow Airport

THE BOOK

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Industry Airports
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United Kingdom
PR Mischief PR
Creative Director Daniel Glover-James
Released June 2011

Credits & Description

Category: Travel, Tourism & Leisure
Advertiser: BAA (HEATHROW)
Product/Service: HEATHROW AIRPORT
Agency: MISCHIEF PR
Creative Director: Daniel Glover (Mischief PR)
Associate Director: Charlotte Hutley (Mischief PR)
Media placement: Consumer PR - N/a - 1 June 2011
Media placement: Corporate Communication - N/a - 1 June 2011
Summary of the Campaign
In the summer of 2011 Heathrow appointed a writer-in-residence to tell the real story of the airport and build an emotional connection between its staff and passengers.
Tony Parsons, 1 of the world’s most popular authors, was given unprecedented access to all areas of the airport and full creative control over the finished book; a bold move by Heathrow as the airport was effectively opened up for literary critique, but one that gave instant credibility to the project.
Much of his residency was spent patrolling the terminals providing thousands of staff, passengers and media with a live brand experience. Social media feeds via Facebook and Twitter enabled people to monitor the writer’s progress.
Over 380 national and international media outlets covered the story including features on every major UK TV news programme.
The resulting book served as its own media and told the real story of Heathrow, humanising the airport by capturing its emotion, the thousands of people who work there, and the 69m passengers who pass through it each year.
5,000 copies of the book were given out to Heathrow staff and passengers a day before launch in order to build a less corporate connection between the airport and its audiences. Departures: Stories from Heathrow topped the short-story section in the Amazon book chart. It is being sold in over 50 countries and in all major international (rival) airports.
The Situation
Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports handling more than 69m passengers every year. Despite the huge effort that goes into managing an operation of this scale, its reputation is largely formed by negative media coverage when things go wrong (such as disruption caused by snow in December 2010).
With consumer scepticism running high the PR campaign could not simply rely on relating Heathrow brand messages to its staff and the public. Instead it needed to humanise the airport and create a relationship with staff, passengers and media so they genuinely reconsidered the way they think about Heathrow.
The Goal
To build staff, passenger and media empathy with Heathrow, an airport that is routinely criticised for appearing a secret, unfriendly organisation.
Recognising that the reputation of Heathrow is largely formed by 'bad' news stories when things go wrong (such as disruption caused by snow in December 2010) the PR campaign had to create a genuine reason for people to reconsider the way they think about the airport.
The target audience was anybody who was likely to fly to and from Heathrow, i.e. ABC1 Londoners, a further target being to appeal to inhabitants of over 180 international cities.
The Strategy
After much discussion with BAA (the owners of Heathrow), we convinced the organisation to appoint an airport writer-in-residence to tell the real story of a week at Heathrow. The appointment would generate media headlines around the world, but the resulting book would serve as its own media and tell the real story of Heathrow; humanising the airport by capturing the stories of the tens of thousands of people who work there and the 69m passengers who pass through it each year.
Tony Parsons, one of the world’s most popular authors, was selected to the writer-in-residence post. Mr Parsons was given unprecedented access to all areas of the airport and full creative control over the finished book - a bold move by Heathrow as the airport was effectively opened up for literary critique, but one that gave instant credibility to the project.
Execution
Mr Parsons met hundreds of passengers and staff, from animal handlers to baggage operators, enabling him to capture the real human story of the airport. Much of his time was spent patrolling Heathrow terminals providing thousands of staff, passengers and media with a live brand experience. Social media feeds via Facebook and Twitter enabled people to monitor the writer’s progress.
We only had 12 weeks from point of brief to execution. In this time an author had to be recruited, access arranged (no mean feat considering airport regulations), a publisher found, a route into international retail established and a 200-page book written (the average publishing process takes over 12 months).
To launch the book, Departures: Stories from Heathrow, Mr Parsons returned to the airport as a reader-in-residence reading extracts of the book live from Terminal 5, which was also broadcast through the airport’s Facebook page.
Documented Results
387 national and international media outlets covered the campaign generating an advertising equivalent of £725,000, a PR value of £2.7m and a consumer reach of over 120m.
Influential websites such as Trendhunter.com and The Huffington Post helped generate thousands of positive branded conversations online applauding Heathrow’s effort to educate its staff, passengers and media by telling the real story of the airport.
Since the PR campaign hit, Heathrow has seen a change in staff and public sentiment as people begin to appreciate the effort and expertise that goes into running one of the world’s busiest airports. This understanding has helped create a new found respect towards Heathrow, demonstrated through the previously anti-Heathrow newspaper London Evening Standard praising its new strategy.
Departures: Stories from Heathrow topped the short-story section in the Amazon book chart. It is being sold in over 50 countries and in all major international (rival) airports.